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Rights Activists Denounce EU-China Closed-Doors Meetings
Rainer Schneeweiss and Jan Jekielek

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BERLIN—Human rights activists, along with victims of repression in the People's Republic of China (PRC), rallied in Berlin on May 14 to denounce an upcoming series of behind-closed-doors negotiations between European Union (EU) and Chinese officials.

The critics, including Vice-President of the European Parliament Edward McMillan-Scott who attended the event, say that the upcoming EU-China Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue has historically accomplished very little, and that the cause for human rights in China has actually suffered since the dialogue's inception eleven years ago.

"The process of repression in China is actually increasing and not decreasing, and that is what people should understand," said McMillan-Scott.

The EU-China Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue was initiated in 1996, and was suspended only once, that year, by PRC officials when the EU tabled a resolution critical of the Chinese communist regime at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

"I know that the Chinese regard this whole process with absolute cynicism. They do with all the countries with whom they have dialogues," said the Vice-President, adding that even many European representatives have a similar perspective.

Ulrich Delius, Asia expert with The Society for Threatened Peoples, echoed the sentiment, saying the cause for human rights in China had not improved over the last eleven years.

Torture in prisons and labour camps, and forcing prisoners to write so-called "repentance statements" against their will are some of the worst examples the PRC's misuse of power, which should be "banned without any restrictions, if China seriously wants to prove its will to reform," Delius added.

The persecution of religious and ethnic groups, in particular the Falun Gong meditation practice, as well as the Laogai system of forced labour camps, were major topics at the event, which took place in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. Over three hundred Falun Gong practitioners gathered over the weekend at the Gate, to peacefully protest the severe state repression that Falun Gong has been subjected to since 1999.

"In my view, what is happening to Falun Gong, under the genocide convention, is quite clearly genocide," said McMillan-Scott.

He reported that three people he had contacted last May while he was on a fact-finding mission in Beijing were subjected to mistreatment after having come into contact with him.

"I think that to put someone in prison and to torture him for meeting a representative of the only international democratically elected assembly, the European Parliament, was a very, very big mistake," said the Vice-President.

One of the three, Cao Dong, 36, an interpreter at a Bejing travel agency and a Falun Gong practitioner, personally met with McMillan-Scott to expose past persecution by the Chinese regime against him. He was arrested shortly after their meeting, and later sentenced to five years in prison.

The Chairman of the International Society for Human Rights, Karl Hafen, also spoke out in a letter to the rally, asking PRC officials to offer public apology for having allowed the current situation of human rights abuse to occur.

Zhong Weiguang, a representative of the Free Chinese Culture Campaign, a banned Chinese organisation boasting a membership of 800 writers in mainland China, and another 200 Chinese authors overseas, called for a transparent, open dialogue.

Vocal Swiss parliamentarian Oskar Freysinger also added his voice to the cause. "It is purposeless to continue to hold a dialogue with a criminal regime whose only reaction to the pleadings of its people to stop persecutions is silence," he said.

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